Bardstown Bourbon Co. Founders Collaboration

Alcohol Professor: 7 of the Best Whiskey Releases of Spring 2022

Here’s my most recent piece for Alcohol Professor on some of the newest bourbon and whiskey releases this spring.


Spring has certainly sprung in the whiskey world, with new releases pushing up through the soil quicker than I can remove winter’s gook. There once was one big release period in the fall, but it seems nobody’s holding back their bourbon-soaked bounty for that anymore. So let’s take a look at some of the latest crop looking for a little sunshine and sippin’.

Angel’s Envy Rye Whiskey Finished In Ice Cider Casks

Angel's Envy Cider bottle

107 Proof | $249.99

In 2013, Angel’s Envy came out with rye whiskey finished in Caribbean rum casks that was — and still is — phenomenal. There truly is nothing at all like it in the marketplace today, so it’s no surprise they didn’t mess with it for nine years. Until now. As part of the Cellar Collection, this release finishes the Angel’s Envy rye (sans the Caribbean rum) in ice cider casks from Vermont-based Eden Specialty Ciders for 364 days.

The rye whiskey is 7 years old, so it’s solid even without the cider finish. You definitely get that hint of apple on the nose, and then once you sink your teeth in — er, I mean sip — it’s like Grandma’s apple pie. Straight up baked apple with drizzles of caramel, sprinkles of cinnamon and even some roasted cashews thrown into the mix. The price tag is a bit steep on this one, but if you’re a rye and cider fan, this is your golden goose.   

Uncle Nearest

Uncle Nearest bottle
Unc

118.4 proof | $149

Uncle Nearest Tennessee Whiskey first came onto the scene in 2017, and as founders Fawn Weaver and company conceptualized the welcoming distillery in Shelbyville, Tenn., they were smart to lay down some of their own distillate before ground was ever broken.

Now, that whiskey is about 5 years old, and the company will be switching over to that juice, which is 100-percent distilled, aged and bottled by Uncle Nearest. They’ll also be adding to their lineup of offerings, including some rye whiskeys, but first they celebrated the milestone with the release of the Uncle Nearest Master Blend Edition, which is only available at the distillery.

There’s a reason Uncle Nearest is the most awarded American whiskey company for the last few years, and once you pop the top on this bottle, you’ll know why. The whiskey titillates with butter pecan, dark fruit and toffee notes — and that’s just in the aroma. The flavors are very impressive for a 5-year-old whiskey, and the notes I just mentioned are all heightened in that first sip, along with hints of butterscotch and caramel corn. The whiskey is thick and leaves you thirsty for more.

Bardstown Bourbon Co. Collaborative Series: KBS Stout

Bardstown Bourbon Co. Founders Collaboration

110 proof | $159.99

The latest in Bardstown Bourbon Company’s Collaborative Series has them teaming up with the beloved Michigan beer company Founders Brewing. The finished whiskey began as a 10-year-old Tennessee bourbon and then was put into Founders Brewing KBS Stout Barrels for 15 months. As with most of these collaborations, the results are phenomenal. 

This is one that reveals new flavors with each sip. On the nose you get wonderful notes of coffee, cocoa and orange peel, most likely from the stout finish. And then that first sip explodes with black cherry, dark chocolate and even more coffee. It may sound complex, but the bourbon and the stout have intermingled well, making it a fun experiment and treat for both beer and bourbon lovers. I’m thinking about adding this to my coffee to see if those mocha notes come out even more.

15 Stars Timeless Reserve

15 Stars bottle

103 proof | $279

This is the newest bourbon to hit store shelves (in Kentucky only, sorry folks), and yet it’s the oldest one at 14 years old. 15 Stars is a new brand named in honor of America’s 15th state — you guessed it, Kentucky!

The father and son team of Rick and Ricky Johnson sourced barrels for this blend, called Timeless Reserve, and they recently revealed the website, which also highlights many historical artifacts from 1795. Although Kentucky was founded in 1792, it took three more years for a 15-star flag to debut.

The Johnsons will continue to put out sourced blends as well as some of their own bourbons and whiskeys they’ve distilled with the help of Bardstown Bourbon Co. using various types of heirloom corn.

At a perfect and deliberate 103 proof, this Kentucky bourbon truly is timeless, reminding you just how delicate and nuanced whiskey can be as it ages on past a decade. You get a little of that oak on the nose, along with a nice maple and butterscotch. And after that first sip, it’s a spring bouquet of fresh flavors bursting in your mouth. It’s got that viscous mouthfeel from its time in the oak, plus a few dark chocolate and roasted almond notes, along with hints of sweet vanilla and warm caramel. It’s a high price point, but it’s 14 years old!

FOR THE FULL ARTICLE, CLICK HERE.

Heaven Hill Heritage Collection bottle

Heaven Hill releases 17-year bourbon from its ‘vast inventory of extra-aged whiskey’ — so how’s it taste?

Heaven Hill Heritage Collection bottle

Earlier this month, word spread about a new bourbon Heaven Hill was launching that would be a whopping 17 years old. Yes, there are older bourbons on the market — Pappy 23 to reference a popular one — but in this age where many distilleries cite limited supplies of aged whiskey, it makes headlines when out pops any release older than 12.

But then again, Heaven Hill isn’t your average everyday bourbon distillery either. After announcing the release of the new Heritage Collection 17-Year-Old Barrel-Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, they followed it up a week or so later with news that the next Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond release would be 17 years as well. Hot damn!

Call it gumption, call it ingenious foresight or call it great supply management, but Heaven Hill is sitting on a “vast inventory of extra-aged whiskey,” according to Susan Wahl, VP of American Whiskeys. Wahl spoke during a media event on the Heritage Collection via Zoom, which included a tasting of the 17-year bourbon led by Master Distiller Conor O’Driscoll.

There are currently 1.9 million barrels aging throughout Heaven Hill’s six rick house sites, so yes, I can see where some of that probably is older whiskey, which is good news for them and consumers.

The new release is the first of the Heritage Collection, which will debut each spring and always feature some of the distillery’s oldest juice (15+). Their highly sought-after Parker’s Heritage Collection will continue to be released each fall and focuses more on the experimental side of the coin, including finishes, mashbills and more.

Tell me about the bourbon already!

OK, OK. This first iteration of the Heritage Collection features Heaven Hill’s standard bourbon mashbill of 78% corn, 10% rye and 12% malted barley. The proof on this one is a stout 118.2, so it does pack a punch for an older guy.

Heaven Hill Heritage Collection bottle
Fancy bottle, fancy box. | Courtesy

And, as we know, the age statement comes from the youngest bourbon in the batch — which is 17 years old — but O’Driscoll told us it also contains a good amount of 19- and 20-year-old barrels, which brings its average age to 18.7.

The barrels were also pulled from several rick houses, including Deatsville, Glencoe, Schenley and the main campus in Bardstown, and most barrels were from floors 1-4.

The suggested retail price on this fancy 750ml bottle is $274.99, and Wahl said it should be hitting store shelves any day now in Kentucky as well as across the country.

So how’s it taste?

It tastes delicious, thank you. I’ll have another.

Only kidding — about having another … unless I can get lucky and find one on the shelf.

From first sniff, you know this bourbon is going to be complex. It smells like walking into a rick house and all those wonderful notes that invade your nostrils — vanilla, caramel, toffee, oak, baked apple and dark chocolate.

Now onto the sip …

This bourbon is not overly oaked at all, which can be the case with older whiskeys. It’s also quite sweet for being 118.2 proof. Along with the aromas I mentioned above, I get some nutty flavors, like pecans and almonds, a lot more of that apple, this time with a sprinkle of cinnamon, and even a tinge of leather on the long finish.

If your tongue was a dance floor, it’s waltzing from left to right, gliding effortlessly like the mature spirit it is. After sitting inside a barrel for 17 years, this is the bourbon’s time to grab the spotlight and never let go — until the last drop has been savored.

Bottles from Tasteless Tastings Olympics

Tasteless Tastings: Belated Olympic Edition

Welcome to another edition of Tasteless Tastings, which is exactly what it sounds like: tasting notes from the riffraff. If you follow the liquor industry to any capacity, you probably have come across snooty tasting notes from classy people who make the new spirit sound more like a science experiment than something you consume for fun. I want to shoot gayly forward from the hip and tell you how it really tastes. So each time the nice mailman brings me a sample to try, I’ll gather up some friends and we’ll have a candid, lively and unpolitically correct discussion about bourbon.

I’ve been embarrassingly behind on holding this Tasteless Tastings, and I have no one to blame but myself. I’ve had some of these bottles for months, and I’ve tried my hardest not to break into them until I could get some buddies over and do it to it. I invited five friends to join me, and we dove right in, tackling the most in the history of TT. We also had an Olympic theme going and awarded our top 3 with a gold, silver and bronze medal.

So here we are. Without further adieu …

Bottles from Tasteless Tastings Olympics
A stellar lineup indeed.

What are we drinking today?:

Penelope Bourbon

What the hell is it?:

This is a four-grain bourbon from the new-ish Penelope Bourbon folks, and it’s a blend of three bourbon mash bills sourced from MGP in Indiana. The four grains include corn, wheat, rye and malted barley.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

80 Proof | $34.99

What do we think?:

Elizabeth: It has a nice nose. I like it! It’s got nice legs, too.

Heather: It’s smooth.

Kat: I like how smooth it is, but nothing really jumps out flavor-wise.

Bar Belle: It sure is a mellow little fellow.

Tonya: It’s light and airy. I could sip on this all night.

Elizabeth: I’m not sure I like the bottle because it looks too much like wine.

Zanne: Yes! It looks like a rosé!

Final thought:

A light and refreshing take on bourbon, this standard Penelope release is definitely a gateway whiskey.

Group Consensus:

Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.


Silver medal

What are we drinking today?:

Five Brothers Bourbon

What the hell is it?:

This is the newest release from Heaven Hill that pays homage to the five Shapira brothers who founded the company in 1935. It’s a blend of five ages of bourbon ranging from 5 to 9 years old.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

90 Proof | $59.99

What do we think?:

Elizabeth: The nose is great on this one, but it kind of burnt me a little on first sip.

Bar Belle: That’s because you chugged it! You’re supposed to let it simmer in your mouth, not just swallow it whole!

Elizabeth: You didn’t pour me enough to truly get a taste. Quit being stingy!

Bar Belle: OK, fine! Here’s another pour.

Heather: I enjoy the rich nose on this one. It’s like you’re inside a rick house.

Kat: I’m getting apricot and citrus. It’s nice!

Heather: It’s an easy drinker for sure.

Kat: It really opened up in my mouth and was refreshing going down.

Bar Belle: Nobody say “That’s what she said,” please.

Final thought:

It’s a great sipping bourbon with the quintessential notes of rich caramel, dark chocolate and baked fruit.

Medal Winner!:

Silver — Second Place!


Puncher's Chance bottle
Bourbon or pirate booty?

What are we drinking today?:

Puncher’s Chance Bourbon

What the hell is it?:

This is a blend of 4-6-year-old Kentucky bourbon and is partly backed by famed sports announcer Bruce Buffer, aka “the voice of mixed martial arts.” We’ll let Buffer explain the name of the product himself:  “A puncher’s chance means that anyone has the potential to succeed, whatever the odds or circumstances, if he or she works for it.”

Give me the nerdy numbers:

90 Proof | $34.99

What do we think?:

Kat: The bottle is not appealing to me. It looks like a rum!

Zanne: It looks like a bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream!

Elizabeth: It looks like it came off a pirate ship.

Kat: It drinks young.

Zanne: There’s a subtle hint of burnt tire in this.

Bar Belle: I’m detecting some mustiness here.

Heather: It’s like watered down Irish whiskey.

Final thought:

While most in our panel did not prefer this bourbon, that doesn’t mean others won’t enjoy it. It drinks a little young, but there are some who prefer those flavors of green apple and pear, drizzled with some caramel. This is Kentucky bourbon, after all, so it’s got potential to be your everyday drinker. Note: A 21-year-old crashed our tasting session during this pour, and he not only loved Puncher’s Chance, but he said he’d buy it just because of the cool bottle. So there you go.

Group Consensus:

Most likely to get bought by college dudes named Kyle.


What are we drinking today?:

Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel Bourbon

What the hell is it?:

This is the 10-year-old version of Michter’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon. It was aged in a heat-cycled warehouse and is very sought-after by bourbon aficionados all around the globe.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

94.4 Proof | $150

What do we think?:

Elizabeth: This smells MUCH better than the last one.

Heather: I get cherry up front — definite cherry.

Tonya: It has a nice burn … it’s that Kentucky hug they talk about.

Elizabeth: I like the nose better than the taste. It kinda burns.

Bar Belle: Are we drinking the same thing? This is amazing!

Kat: There’s a nice spice at the end, too.

Zanne: I’d like this by a campfire in the autumn. Where can I get this?

Bar Belle: It’s pretty hard to find unless you get lucky at the distillery downtown.

Zanne: Money can’t buy you love when it comes to bourbon.

Final thought:

With notes of cherry, caramel and spice, it’s everything nice you want in a bourbon. At 10 years old, it’s a solid pour that is worth hunting for.

Group Consensus:

Most likely to marry a millionaire.


What are we drinking today?:

Stellum Bourbon

What the hell is it?:

This is a brand from the Barrell Craft Spirits that blends barrels of various ages from Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

114.98 Proof | $54.99

What do we think?:

Elizabeth: This smells like caramel!

Heather: I thought it would taste heavier than it does.

Zanne: Two thumbs up!

Tonya: I just added some water and that really helped me enjoy it more.

Bar Belle: The water really does open it up a bit. It’s nice!

Kat: I could sip on this while I watch my Eagles win this year.

Bar Belle: I’m sorry, did you mean Bengals?

Kat: No. No I didn’t. Are there still Bengals fans?

Bar Belle: Who Dey.

Final thought:

Not too shabby for a new product. This well-rounded bourbon has some bite, but if you can get past that, you’ll be rewarded with delightful flavors of caramel, cinnamon, vanilla and toffee.

Group Consensus:

Most likely to never be single (because it would be great in a cocktail).


Bronze Medal Winner

What are we drinking today?:

Penelope Barrel Strength Bourbon

What the hell is it?:

This is Batch No. 6 that is a barrel-strength version of the Penelope Four Grain. Again, the mash bills come from MGP, but the bourbons have been aged a bit longer, at 3.5-4.5 years. The uncut, unfiltered juice won Double Gold in the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Awards, and here it took the third-place Bronze Medal.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

115.8 | $57.99

What do we think?:

Elizabeth: It noses well.

Zanne: P does not stand for packaging — I still think it looks too much like a wine bottle.

Elizabeth: Wow! I’m really impressed with the rich caramel and butter notes in this.

Kat: I like this! It’s smooth for being so high in proof.

Heather: I’d even say it’s sweet, with a little smack to the rear on the finish.

Bar Belle: This is quite amazing and another reason why I prefer barrel-strength to, say, like 80 or 90 proof. If I want to add water, that should be my decision.

Final thought:

It’s a very well-balanced, high-proof bourbon that doesn’t feel high proof. With flavors of orange peel, fruit and caramel, this is the perfect bourbon to sip by the bonfire.

Medal Winner!:

Bronze — Third Place!


What are we drinking today?:

Stellum Rye

What the hell is it?:

A project by the Barrell Craft Spirits folks, this one blends rye whiskey barrels from Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana to pay respect to the tried-and-true Indiana rye whiskey mash bill of 95% rye and 5% malted barley.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

116.24 Proof | $54.99

What do we think?:

Bar Belle: Wow! I’m getting maple syrup right up front. It’s delightful! Like a bourbon waffle!

Tonya: Whoa … I might set something on fire with this!

Zanne: I’m liking it with a few cubes of ice. It puts out that fire just a bit.

Bar Belle: No ice! Step away from the ice, Zanne!

Kat: This is a great example of a rye whiskey, and even though the bottle also looks like wine, I think it’s sharp.

Final thought:

This tasty little rye snack would make a wonderful treat on a cold night. With hints of maple syrup and brown sugar and a respectable proof of 116, this is a solid choice to add to your bar.

Group Consensus:

Most likely to stay the night.


Gold Medal Winner

What are we drinking today?:

Old Forester Single Barrel Rye

What the hell is it?:

This is the single barrel, barrel-strength edition of the Old Forester Rye Whiskey.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

124 Proof | $79.99

What do we think?:

Kat: I really like this one. Wow!

Zanne: I’m in!

Tonya: It’s smooth, and it’s toying with my tongue … in a good way!

Heather: It’s the Pop Rocks of whiskey!

Bar Belle: Holy wow! You better cash me outside with this one! Is that how you say the phrase?

Elizabeth: Not really, but we’ll let it slide. This whiskey has a wonderful after taste!

Tonya: You get all the flavor up front, and then the heat on the back. It’s a fun spirit.

Final thought:

It’s the Pop Rocks of whiskey. This one has the flavor, the punch and the subtle flavors of a candy factory sprinkled with black pepper. Although we sampled this one last, it was the obvious winner of the night, proving that good things come to those who wait. We want more!

Medal Winner!:

Gold — First Place!

Old Forester 117 Series Warehouse K

Old Forester serves up another 117 Series, plus Parker’s Heritage 2021 details

Get ready to loosen up those purse strings, y’all, because the bourbon releases will be coming at us full throttle in the next few weeks, leading up to September, aka National Bourbon Heritage Month. Here are two announcements to wet your whistle.

Old Forester 117 Series: Warehouse K

Old Forester 117 Series Warehouse K

Lucky for us, we don’t have to wait until the fall for this one. The second iteration of Old Forester‘s 117 Series will be out Thursday, Aug. 12 — that’s TOMORROW, folks! — at the downtown distillery and your favorite liquor store (if you’re lucky).

The name is “Warehouse K,” and it features a blend of barrels aged on different floors from the famed warehouse. Supposedly, Warehouse K produces some exceptional bourbon and is the stuff of legends among bourbon geeks, similar to the Four Roses Tier 6 lore.

Constructed in 1953, Warehouse K is one of Brown-Forman’s heat-cycling rick houses and is the place where Old Forester plucks most of its Single Barrel expressions from.

“Warehouse K has gained a cult following among bourbon connoisseurs,” said Master Taster Jackie Zykan in a news release. “This blend is a representation across multiple floors and locations within this warehouse, giving a more holistic example of the profile its barrels yield.” 

The 117 Series Warehouse K will be bottled at 110 proof and retail for $49.99 for a 375 ml bottle. The previous expression — “High Angels’ Share Barrels” — was also 110 proof and $49.99. The bottles will go on sale Thursday, Aug. 12, starting at 10 a.m. at the distillery.

Here are the tasting notes according to the news release:

Color: Rich honey.

Aroma: On the nose, creamy chocolate, caramel, and brown sugar lead, with a hint of golden raisin and a foreshadowing of the pepper the finish will unveil. 

Taste: The palate brings with it a full-bodied and rich viscosity, peripheral spice, and a touch of black cherry alongside bitter molasses. 

Finish: The robust yet balanced spice finish completes the story of the well-known complexity which is the K warehouse. 

Parker’s Heritage 2021: 11-Year-Old Heavy Char Wheat Whiskey

Parker's Heritage 2021

For this annual release, you’ll have to wait until September. But I’ve got all the sordid details!

For the 15th edition of Heaven Hill‘s Parker’s Heritage, named in honor of the late Master Distiller Parker Beam, the company is going with an 11-Year-Old Heavy Char Wheat Whiskey.

The bottles come from a batch of 75 barrels that were charred to a level 5 (standard bourbons use a level 3), which will, according to the news release, show how a more intense char allows the liquid to penetrate deeper into each barrel stave and the effects on the resulting flavor.

Count me in! The mash bill consists of 51% wheat, 37% corn and 12% malted barley.

“The Parker’s Heritage Collection is a testament to the distilling legacy at Heaven Hill Distillery and the detailed attention each step of the process receives,” said Susan Wahl, Vice President, American Whiskies at Heaven Hill, in the news release. “We are excited to release the third mashbill in this heavy char series, showcasing the consistency of quality throughout our innovation pipeline. It is in tribute to Parker and his legacy that we continue to support ALS research and patient care with this collection.”

Each year, Heaven Hill donates a portion of the proceeds from each bottle sold to the ALS Association. So far, they’ve donated more than $1 million toward ALS research and will continue raising funds with this bottle.

The Parker’s Heritage will be released in September and retails for a suggested price of $139.99.

Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond Fall 2021 release

Old Fitzgerald BIB fall edition will be 11 years old

I expect this news release to be one of many that’ll soon flood my inbox — because we’re officially less than a month away from the big Bourbon Release Season! Oh happy days!

Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond Fall 2021 release
Behold!

The next Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond release will be 11 years old and — as always, since it’s a Bottled-in-Bond product — 100 proof. This is the second time one of the seasonal Old Fitz releases has been 11, the first being the spring of 2018.

If you’re unfamiliar, Heaven Hill releases the fancy Old Fitz BIB decanters every spring and fall, and each iteration differs in age. This wheated bourbon meets the strict requirements of Bottled-in-Bond: the product of a single distillery from a single distilling season, aged a minimum of four years, and bottled at 100 proof or 50% alcohol by volume.

It’ll retail for $110 if you’re lucky to find one in a liquor store or at the distillery. These are highly coveted bottles, of course, so they’ll disappear quickly — like most bottles these days.

If you’d just like to try it, though, you can probably find it behind the bar at places like Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen, Taj, Evergreen Liquors (go check out their new NuLu location!), Westport Whiskey & Wine, the new Frankfort Avenue Liquors & Wine, Taste Fine Wine & Bourbons, Justin’s House of Bourbon, and many, many more.

I don’t have the exact date this will be released, but I’ll update this post if I get it. Happy hunting!

Heaven Hill unveils its $19 million Bourbon Experience in Bardstown

Just as Kentucky life is inching its way to back to (semi) normal, we have a new reason to get back out on that Kentucky Bourbon Trail for a brand new excursion: the Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience. The $19 million expansion project fittingly opened on June 14, National Bourbon Day.

Heaven Hill barrel
The new Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience held its grand opening on National Bourbon Day. | Photo by Sara Havens

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony held Monday morning, Gov. Andy Beshear proclaimed it National Kentucky Bourbon Day and talked about how happy he was that we could all gather and celebrate such a thrilling occasion in the bourbon industry.

“Kentucky is fully open, and we are excited,” he said. “This new expansion is going to give people one more reason to visit Kentucky.”

Heaven Hill President Max Shapira also announced a new bourbon release — called Five Brothers — that honors his father and his four brothers, who started Heaven Hill in 1935. The 90-proof bourbon is a blend of Heaven Hill’s traditional bourbon mash bill at five different ages, ranging from 5 to 9 years old. The retail on the bottles, which were available in the gift shop, is $59.99.

After the ribbon cutting, guests were free to walk around the new facility and check out all the offerings and experiences. Here’s a rundown of some of them:

  • “You Do Bourbon” — A fill-your-own bottle station where you can rinse, dry, fill and cork your own bourbon from one of four brands.
  • 5 Brothers Bar — Located upstairs, this fancy yet comfy bar will offer cocktails and flights to guests waiting for tours, or somewhere to refuel after a tour. There’s also a nice balcony and an event space as well.
  • Brand Gallery — A huge museum-like space that provides info on all of Heaven Hill’s brands, from Elijah Craig to Larceny to its Bottled-In-Bond products and beyond.
  • 1935 Theater — An immersive video telling the history of Heaven Hill and the Shapira family. It runs every 20 minutes.

It’s important to note that $5 from every You Do Bourbon bottle filled will go to nearby neighbor Bernheim Forest to help with its new Rites of Passage program, an initiative that opens up immersive experiences in nature to young black men and women.

The You Do Bourbon experience will open officially on July 1. And the rest of the new interactive exhibits will be open tomorrow.

Here’s a look at the sights and sips of the ribbon-cutting ceremony:

Square 6 bottle

Meet Square 6, first bourbon released from Evan Williams Bourbon Experience

I don’t know what it is about this new release, but if someone came up to me and asked me to describe Kentucky in one single pour, I would choose Square 6, the first bottled bourbon released from (and made at) Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in Louisville.

Square 6 bottle
Square 6 will be sold primarily at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience. | Courtesy

The high-rye bourbon recipe sings to my tastebuds. It’s a sipper for sure — don’t be adding anything to this except maybe ice. But at 95 proof, ice isn’t really even needed.

The name Square 6 comes from the plot of land that housed Evan Williams’ first distillery in 1783, which history claims is also Kentucky’s first commercial distillery. The Evan Williams brand, as you know, is owned by Heaven Hill.

At a press conference this afternoon, Artisanal Distiller Jodie Filiatreau was eager to share his new release with us, saying, “This is one of my babies. It’s truly a labor of love, and I can’t wait to see what you think.”

Filiatreau included some tasting notes during his presentation, and he offered up some actual ingredients on a plates for us to taste and smell along with. What this bourbon oozes are notes of tobacco, fig and honey, along with a bit of cardamom and cinnamon.

The tobacco smelled absolutely amazing, but the cardamom was a bit overpowering — possibly because I put it in my mouth, and I think we were just supposed to smell it. Oops.

Square 6 bourbon in a glass
It’s quite complex for being only 5 years old. | Photo by Sara Havens

But back to the bourbon. The high-rye recipe is 52% corn, 35% rye and 13% malted barley, and it was distilled right at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, which opened in 2013 and makes one barrel per day.

Filiatreau says this first release of Square 6 will be one of many, as they have experimented with at least 12 different mash bills since they opened. This release features bourbon that was aged five years.

For a high-rye recipe, there’s not that harsh bite you might expect. Rather, it’s a balanced potpourri of rich caramel, vanilla, white pepper and a mellow spice, which could be the sixth Spice Girl.

Even Filiatreau said it’s not so much a gut-punch Kentucky hug but rather a nice pat on the back.

About 15 barrels went into this initial release, and when it’s gone it’s gone. But alas, there will be more varieties in the near future. Square 6 retails for $89.99 at the downtown distillery and a few stores in the area.

Angel's Envy Cask Strength bottle

Bourbon sips & scoops: Maker’s, Parker’s, Angel’s, Michter’s and more!

Things are starting to pile up on the Bar Belle desk, and my boss is nowhere to be found! I should have written this sooner and I apologize, dear thirst nuggets.

But alas, here I am with a mound of announcements and a handful of samples. What’s a bourbon journalist to do? Let’s take ’em one at a time.

Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup bottle

Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup bottle

You might see these pop up at your local liquor store this weekend! It’s the Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup commemorative bottle, which also helps raise funds for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.

As you know, the Breeders’ Cup will return to Keeneland Race Course Nov. 6-7, so this limited-edition bottle celebrates the partnership between the two entities — as well as Maker’s Mark, which is the official bourbon of the race.

I kinda like the white bottle with the purple wax — it would definitely make a nice show piece on your bar or nightstand. Hey, no judgement here.

Buffalo Trace expands soda line with ginger ale and ginger beer

Freddie's Ginger Ale

If you’ve visited Buffalo Trace Distillery within the last year, you probably noticed Freddie’s Root Beer for sale in the gift shop.

Freddie Johnson is a longtime tour guide — and all around great bourbon ambassador — at Buffalo Trace, so the line is named in his honor.

Word is, they’re expanding the line with ginger ale and ginger beer. These will make perfect mixers for that bourbon you pick up there, or consumed on their own, of course.

The new products should be at the distillery by mid November and will sell for $1.25 a bottle.

New Releases:

Angel’s Envy Cask Strength 2020

Angel's Envy Cask Strength

Despite the craptacular year we’ve had, good things do happen. Case in point, the release of the annual Angel’s Envy Cask Strength.

This biting baby doll will be 120.4 proof and released on Nov. 1 — just in time for the election. (Maybe we’ll be celebrating, or maybe we’ll be drowning our sorrows — who knows.)

There are only 17,400 bottles divided up between all 50 states (for the first time ever), so dust off that hunting gear and get prepared for next week.

I was fortunate to try a sample of this year’s release and can say that it does not sip like 120 juice — it’s quite smooth, and it’s teeth are not as sharp as you’d imagine them to be. There’s a lot of vanilla, caramel and brown sugar up front, but there’s also a nice ripe cherry note in there, as well.

And the finish … ah, the finish: It’s like licking the spoon after Mom made some sugar cookies. I could sip on this all night long.

Angel’s Envy Cask Strength will retail for $199.99.

Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Rye

Michter's Toasted Rye

These delectable dudes were released in September, so I’m sorry I’m just now getting to them. You may be able to find a pour of them at your favorite bourbon bar, and I suggest you give them a sip!

The Toasted Rye consists of fully matured Michter’s Single Barrel Rye (at barrel strength) that is then put into a second custom toasted barrel and aged a bit longer.

The result is gorgeous notes of caramel and spice and everything nice. I was also fortunate to receive a sample and will tell you without hesitation that this juice is richer than a cheesecake the Golden Girls are huddled over at midnight.

I love the viscosity in this one, as well. It’s thick and coats my mouth like a North Face. Think of the consistency of a cherry juice — if you buy the right ones, especially Luxardo — and you get the idea.

This limited release is bottled around 109.2 proof and goes for about $85 if you can find it in a store.

Parker’s Heritage 2020: Heavy Char Bourbon

Parker's Heritage 2020

This is the 14th edition of this annual, highly anticipated release, and it’s a 10-year-old bourbon that was aged in a heavily charred (level 5) barrels.

The brand is named after the late Heaven Hill Master Distiller Parker Beam, and it raises funds for ALS, the disease Beam passed away from in 2010.

This one is bottled at 120 proof and retails for about $120. And like these other releases, it’ll be hard to find.

I was fortunate to try a sample of this, too, and would describe it as a maple bomb. It’s got a touch of spice and sips easy — I can imagine sipping it next to a fireplace as it gently snows outside.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof C920

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

This is the third barrel-proof release from Elijah Craig this year, and it’s the second highest proof — at 132.8 proof.

This seems to be a theme here, but despite the high proof, it sips quite smoothly. It’s got deep flavors of toasted marshmallow, caramel, and I’m even getting some milk chocolate in the sample I got.

This is uncut, 12-year-old bourbon bottled straight from the barrel, as God intended. If you haven’t explored the Elijah Craig portfolio, I’d recommend getting acquainted with it. It’s delicious and pretty darn affordable.

This one retails for around $65.99.

Larceny Barrel Proof C920

Larceny Barrel Proof

This wheated barrel-proof bourbon is also a product of Heaven Hill, like the Elijah Craig above.

Bottled at 122.4 proof, this bourbon is consists of bourbon aged 6 to 8 years and is non-chill filtered.

To me, this is definitely getting better each time I try a new Larceny release.

Since it’s a wheat-based bourbon, it’s a little sweater on the palate and less spicy, but you get those wonderful full-time flavors — think s’mores, campfire and soft baking spices from the kitchen.

This one retails for around $67.99, and I would recommend the barrel proof over the standard Larceny.

Bourbon Brief: Elijah Craig Toasted, Old Fitz, Michter’s 10 and more, oh my!

Folks, I’ve let things pile up on the Bar Belle news desk these past few weeks, so it’s time I get my butt in gear and update you on bourbon releases that might be popping up at your local liquor store — if you’re lucky.

We’re knee-deep in the great Bourbon Release Season, so let’s get to it!

Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel

Elijah Craig ToastedI admit, I’m a huge toasted barrel fan, and I love that more and more distilleries are jumping on the toasted bandwagon. The more s’mores-infused flavors we can get into whiskey, the better! And a great toasted finish is just that — marshmallow, caramel, chocolate, soft baking spices, graham cracker.

My mouth is watering.

This new Elijah Craig offering takes fully mature small batch Elijah Craig, and then puts it into new toasted and flash-charred barrels that were air-dried for 18 months.

The 94-proof juice retains that familiar Elijah Craig spice, but the toasted notes of rich caramel, creamy vanilla and marshmallow make it a delightful sip, all the way through the pleasant finish.

It’s like sipping on a liquid version of a Caramel Cream.

This Heaven Hill-produced bottle is priced at a very affordable $49.99.

Old Fitzgerald 14 — Fall 2020

Old Fitzgerald Fall 2020Another from the Heaven Hill rickhouse, this is the bi-annual Old Fitzgerald Bottled-In-Bond (BIB) release that comes in this fall at 14 years. The ages for the other releases have been anywhere from 9 to 16, and all of them are delicious trophies most people clamor for because the bottle — and the bourbon — are stunning.

This decanter BIB series started in 2018, making this one the sixth national release. And as the rules state for BIB products, it is bottled at 100 proof.

Old Fitz is a wheated bourbon, but given the mature age of this release, it’s not something you want to serve Grandma before bed. It’s fire, it’s oaky (in the best ways) and it’s frickin’ fabulous!

I received a sample of this whiskey, and I might have to say that this is one of my favorites of the series so far. It’s so well-balanced, the Libra in me is doing cartwheels. It’s breakfast and it’s dessert. At first sip, you get a party of flavor — from baked cherries and black pepper spice to those familiar caramels and thick vanillas.

I would sip this by a campfire if I camped. But I don’t do bugs, so I’ll settle for sipping it in front of a fireplace.

The retail price on this should be around $140, and you might want to go check the gift shop for this one.

Michter’s 10 Year Bourbon & 10 Year Rye

Michter's 10 Year Bourbon and RyeI’m so behind on announcing these two new releases that I should be punished, but since I’m my only boss, I’ll let it slide this time. Each year, the fine folks at Michter’s in Louisville, Ky., release some 10 Year Bourbon and 10 Year Rye. Both are always amazing, tasty products, and naturally, the 2020 iterations don’t disappoint.

The bourbon dropped in May, while the rye came out in July (see, I told you I was behind!), and according to the press release, this will be the only 10-year rye release because, well, everyone knows their juice is good, which means everyone wants it.

“This will be the only release of our 10 Year Rye this year because we continue to be in a position where we need to allocate our whiskeys,” said Michter’s President Joe Magliocco in the press release.

I sampled both of these new releases so much during quarantine that they’re both below half full. (Perhaps that’s why it’s taken me so long to write about it, because I just can’t stop sipping!)

The bourbon is a nice medley of candy corn, baked apples and butterscotch, while the rye has that warming spice up front, followed by sweet and sultry flavors like nutmeg, graham cracker and, of course, that vanilla and caramel from the barrel.

The bourbon retails for about $130, while the rye goes for $160.

Little Book Chapter 4: “Lessons Honored” 

Little Book Chapter 4The 2020 Little Book release is dedicated to Freddie Noe’s father, Jim Beam Master Distiller Fred Noe. Little Book is a blending experiment spearheaded by Freddie, and each edition has been as interesting and tasty as the other.

One time he used Canadian whisky, and another used a blend of older and finer Jim Beam products, as an example.

(For those who don’t know, Freddie Noe is the grandson of Booker Noe, and they say he has a nose and a palate similar to Booker’s — hence his nickname, Little Book.)

This one used three whiskeys: a 4-year-old Kentucky Straight Brown Rice Bourbon, an 8-year-old Kentucky Straight “high rye” Rye Whiskey, and a 7-year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

I didn’t get a sample of this one, but the tasting notes in the press release say: “full-bodied vanilla balanced by notes of rich charred wood and dried cherries.”

The bottle retails for $124.99 and is 122.8 proof.

Rabbit Hole Cask Strength Boxergrail Rye Whiskey

Rabbit Hole BoxergrailRabbit Hole has just announced a new Founder’s Collection series with the launch of this limited-edition Cask Strength Boxergrail Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey. The juice is 114.6 proof and 6 years old.

“With this and future Founder’s Collection releases, we will hand select barrels that embody perfection,” explained Rabbit Hole founder Kaveh Zamanian in a press release. “These ‘honey barrels’ will be bottled in numbered editions and offered at cask strength to ensure that connoisseurs experience the liquid as it’s meant to be, untouched.”

I’d love to get a taste of this, because I can imagine it’s even better than their standard Boxergrail. But I’m gonna have a hard time finding it, as there are only 1,315 bottles being released. Yikes!

The bottle will retail for $195, and if you want to throw your name into a lottery that’ll be drawn on Sept. 24 for a bottle, click here.

Whitesnake Angel's Envy

New releases: The Angel’s Envy Tawny Port Finish is old and sexy, plus say hi to Elijah Craig rye

Whitesnake Angel's Envy

A tale of two Tawnys.

Here I go again on my own. Goin’ down the only road I’ve ever known. Like a drifter I was born to walk alone. And I’ve made up my mind. I ain’t wastin’ no more time …

Those, my millennial friends, are lyrics to a kick-ass ’80s song by hairband Whitesnake, and in the video, which they actually played on MTV back in the day, there was pin-up goddess Tawny Kitaen, rolling around half-naked on the hood of a muscle car.

It’s a beautiful piece of pop culture art stamped in time.

And my brain, which is forever stamped in all things ’80s and ’90s, immediately drew parallels to the video when I first heard about the new Cellar Collection from Angel’s Envy, which is finished in tawny port casks. Sure, Tawny is an unusual name, so you can understand why I automatically pictured an Angel’s Envy bottle frolicking on top of a car.

But when I took that first sip, there were way more similarities between the two beauties than just the name. They’re delicious. They’re rich. Their deep, auburn color teases, taunts and tantalizes with every sip. And on the other end of the spectrum, they’re both old — as am I.

Let me get my mind off that car and just focus on the bourbon for a minute. I was fortunate to stop by the Angel’s Envy Distillery last week for a top-secret media get-together announcing the new release. Of course they made us keep it a secret until now, so I apologize that I couldn’t spread the good news earlier.

Let me give you the quick details: The release is the second in the Cellar Collection (the first was the Oloroso Sherry Cask finish) and features 10-year-old bourbon that was finished for 10 months in tawny port casks. It is bottled at 111.6 proof and will retail for about $249.99. The limited run of just 5,400 bottles will be available beginning Feb. 8 at select retailers in Kentucky, California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Tennessee, as well as at the distillery in downtown Louisville

Angel's Envy Tawny(If you’re a member of the free-to-join 500 Main club, you’ll be getting an email soon about being able to purchase it in advance.)

Anyway, during the short tasting experience, we heard from Angel’s Envy Co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer Wes Henderson, Production Manager Kyle Henderson and Lead Distillery Operator Andrew Henderson about the limited release.

Wes Henderson opened the discussion by explaining the concept of the Cellar Collection. Basically, there’s no set date or expectation of when something new has to be released. It comes down to quality — and the wow factor.

“I don’t believe in innovating just to innovate,” Wes said. “We didn’t release this just to have something out there. It’s very different than anything we’ve released before. We set out to make the best whiskey we can, and this one, I believe, is very much in line with what my father (bourbon legend Lincoln Henderson) preferred — more subtle, not in-your-face.”

Kyle Henderson — Wes’ son, Lincoln’s grandson — added that currently, there are about 17 more experiments going on at the Bacardi-owned distillery.

“Those include all the dumbass ideas that won’t see the light of day,” he joked.

Now, as you know, regular Angel’s Envy is finished in ruby port barrels between three to six months. So how is tawny port different? For one, tawny port, which is made from red grapes, is aged longer in oak casks — giving it a golden-brown color. Port, in general, is a type of sweet wine made in Portugal.

So how does the Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon Finished in Tawny Port Barrels taste?

It’s peppery, it’s nutty, it’s fruity. It’s like throwing a handful of Werther’s Originals into a blender with about two Red Hots. It’s everything you want a finished bourbon to be, yet its flavors are unfamiliar but intriguing. It’s like doing a cartwheel on the hood of a car and having knees that’ll stick the landing. (I miss those knees.)

I know what you’re thinking, and no, it’s not that I’m not obsessed with Tawny Kitaen. It’s the price tag — a whopping $250! I get it — it’s a lot.

Maybe you don’t want to shell out that much for a bottle of bourbon, but it would be worth the search at a bar or restaurant or liquor store’s tasting bar for a sample. Or just bite the bullet and buy a bottle. Keep it in your private stash, hidden away from the wife or the husband, right next to your Whitesnake cassette tapes.

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Elijah Craig releases a rye

Elijah Craig rye

Say hi to Elijah Rye.

As a bourbon writer, I run to the mailbox as soon as I get home every day. Unfortunately, I encounter more bills than fun packages, but every now and then, I get something truly special.

Case in point — a box from Heaven Hill that contained a sample of the new Elijah Craig Rye Whiskey and a loaf of rye bread baked by Master Distiller Conor O’Driscoll himself!

Of course I popped that bottle open as soon as I could and enjoyed the sweet and spicy nectar. But I also savored the bread and ate a slice every morning for breakfast until it was gone. One day I even made a sandwich with two slices — and it was wonderful. Thanks, Conor!

rye sandwich

Turkey on rye.

But back to the rye. The mashbill includes 51% rye, 35% corn and 14% malted barley, making it pretty smooth for a rye whiskey with that much corn in it.

I could sip this neat all day, but I also believe it’ll be quite tasty in a cocktail like an Old Fashioned, because that rye won’t take any shit from the sugar.

And for those still in shock from the Angel’s Envy sticker price, this is much more affordable. Elijah Craig Rye Whiskey will be released this month in North Carolina, South Carolina, George and Oregon — What? No Kentucky?!?! — and retail for $29.99.

I suppose since you can’t get it here, you all can stop by and sample some of mine.

Just like Conor’s bread, fine whiskey was meant to be shared.